Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

It's a tale of two cities this morning.  In Boston, the picture of David Ortiz's walk-off homer swing graces the sports page. Here, it's J.P. Howell walking off the mound with his head hung as Rod Barajas circles the bases on his game-tying homer.  In Boston, the fans are celebrating a win on the same night the Rangers and Rays lost. Here, we're staring at September with a 4 game deficit.  In Boston, they're making trades to shore up the eighth inning. Here, we're still not sure what to do in the 9th.  In Boston, they're preparing for a post-season battle with the Yankees. Here, we're looking to 6 games in September to make up ground.  

Baseball is a remarkable game.  The Rays were just 2 outs from completing a sweep of the Blue Jays. Instead, they're left wondering what could of been.  Meanwhile, the Red Sox and their easy September schedule could prove that April was much more important than we thought. Don't get me wrong, the Rays are still in this.  But, all this team has shown me this year is their ability to flirt the big boys.  Every time they seem to get close, they can't close the deal.  And that's what September's going to be all about.  Can this team close the deal or will they end up just short like last night and the entire year.

Here are some things I noticed in the Rays 3-2 loss to the Blue Jays:

  • Beam me up, Scotty Kazmir.  Another good performance from the lefty. He posted 10 strikeouts for the first time in more than a year. If I have any criticism of Kaz, it was the pair of doubles he gave up in the 6th.  The Rays really needed a shut down inning after Gabe Kaplar's 2 run shot.
  • Umpire Craziness. I was getting ready to criticize the Rays bats a little bit, but I think I'll cut them some slack since they had to deal with 3 different home plate umpires.
  • JP Howell. Not that I'm making excuses, but I'm not sure bringing Howell in the 8th was the best idea.  For some reason, I like Howell better when he starts the ninth. However, Joe Maddon was trying to save Dan Wheeler, so JP got the call in the 8th and did his job before the 9th inning meltdown.  Just remember Rays fan, no closer is perfect. It's not an easy job and even the best sometimes get hit.
  • Speaking of closing.  Last night was the 7th time the Rays failed to close out a sweep on the third game of a series.  Think about that in comparison with their place in the standings.
  • Double Play Machine. New Longo nickname?

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